HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hundreds of illegal fireworks lit up the sky on New Year’s Eve. Despite the overwhelming display, illegal fireworks have been going on for months. State lawmakers say they have gotten calls from constituents since November asking for something to be done to stop them from going off through all hours of the night.
“My constituents were in a word, pissed off,” said Sen. Mike Gabbard, who represents Kapolei, Makakilo and Parts of Ewa Beach and Waipahu. “I think it was just this year was the absolute worst that it’s ever been for illegal fireworks. You know the bombs are going off. It’s terrible.”
Gabbard says a key part in finding a solution is hearing from the Honolulu Police Department (HPD) and from the community.
“I’m saying let’s have a serious, respectful conversation. So we can come to a solution. It may not be pleasing to everybody, but we got to try our best,” said Gabbard.
According to HPD, over 2,000 calls were made in December about illegal fireworks. Out of those, 45 citations were issued and only one arrest was made.
Two years ago, a law called Act 248 was passed that holds property owners accountable and allowed video of illegal fireworks taken by the public to be used as evidence by Honolulu police.
“The legislation, Act 248, obviously did not succeed in addressing getting the arrests that we’d hoped for,” said Rep. Sharon Har, who represents Kapolei and Makakilo. “And it did not assist HPD who (are) doing their best, but this is a much larger issue.”
Har said part of this is because many people are afraid to turn in their neighbors.
She said more emphasis needs to be on making sure fireworks don’t get in instead. Har said legislation to stop illegal fireworks at the docks could be introduced when the state legislative session begins next week.
“One of the other ideas that we’re looking at is having particular containers that are coming in from areas, which we know, provide fireworks, whether it’s from foreign countries or whether it’s from, certain areas on the mainland,” said Har. “And we would have those containers, essentially scanned for explosives.”
Har said the large electronic scanners would need to be purchased by the state.
Gabbard said setting up legislation that works when it comes to illegal fireworks is a long time coming.
I think it’s long overdue. This has been a part of the public conversation for many, many years and so I’m hoping it’ll happen this year.Sen. Mike Gabbard, (D) Kapolei, Makakilo
The Honolulu City Council will be discussing enforcement action taken by HPD in its Committee on Public Safety hearing on Wednesday. They will also discuss how to best address the issue of illegal fireworks.